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Vancouver Washington Social Security Disability Law Blog

OIG finds SSDI applications often missing documents

When you apply for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, you have to complete the application form that requires information regarding your work history, education and training, and the medical condition or conditions that are causing your disability.

While it sounds reasonably straightforward, the type of medical issues can add complexity. If you are applying for disability benefits based on an illness or medical condition, like lung cancer or heart diseases, you may have a few very explicit documents that provide clear medical evidence of your condition and allow a rapid approval of your claim.

For SSDI, Congress is running out of time

The latest report from the trustees of the Social Security system continues to be troubling. But that is not a surprise. The report indicates that the trust fund that supplies the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program with part of its revenue, will be exhausted by sometime in 2016. The consequences of this event will be very damaging to many of the current beneficiaries of the SSDI program.

SSDI is funded by two revenue streams. The trust fund provides about 19 percent of the current benefit payments, while the remainder is covered by the payroll tax collections every month. With the exhaustion of the trust fund, the Social Security Administration (SSA) would need to cut the benefit payment by 19 percent.

Why the SSDI program is important

No one ever begins their morning and thinks, "Gee, today would be a great day to become disabled and need Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI)." And at one level, that is the great thing about SSDI. You don't have to worry about signing up or paying premiums, ensuring that you don't miss a payment and have your coverage lapse.

If you have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security, you are automatically covered by the SSDI program. Which is a good thing, because you could wake up one morning like a man did in Salem, Oregon. He found he could not move his legs. 

Computer system to speed up SSDI process still not ready

Delays are the unfortunate norm for many people who have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, or have appealed a rejected application. An initial SSDI application takes an average of more than 100 days to process. SSDI appeals take even longer, with an average of more than 400 days before it is resolved.

Obviously, any upgrades to the Social Security Administration’s system for processing claims and appeals would be welcomed -- if those upgrades are successful.

Nordstrom features disabled models in its catalog

Fashion alert: Nordstrom has released its annual July catalog. While thumbing through the issue, you might notice one way that the Washington-based retail chain’s publication is nearly unique among its competitors -- some of its models are disabled.

Clothing advertisements featuring disabled people are rare, but Nordstrom Inc.’s ads have been a notable exception. The company started using models with disabilities in its annual catalog in 1997.

Study suggest lead may cause more mental disorders in children

We have known for a long time that exposing children to lead is bad for them. Children who consume lead, such as in old paint chips, are at risk of developing cognitive and behavioral problems that may last the rest of their lives.

For this reason, in 1977 the U.S. banned the use of lead in many paints, toys and furniture. However, children may still inadvertently consume lead and become disabled as a result. Some families may need to turn to Supplemental Security Insurance, also known as SSI, to help pay for their child’s medical care, therapy and educational needs.

Closure of SSA offices reducing access for many SSDI applicants

As we mentioned in our previous blog post, it is not uncommon for disabled people in Washington state to wait months, sometimes years, before the Social Security Administration grants them the Social Security Disability benefits to which they are entitled.

Part of this is due to the growth in the number of people seeking SSDI benefits in recent years. Currently, about 11 million people receive the benefits, a 38 percent increase from 2004. Applications and appeals have backed up in many parts of the U.S., causing long delays in the decision-making process.

Social Security Disability judges under congressional scrutiny

Many people in Vancouver wait months and even years for the Social Security Disability benefits they deserve. In fact, the majority of Social Security Disability claims are initially denied, forcing many deserving people to file appeals. It might be surprising to many such individuals when reports appear in the news about Social Security judges rubber-stamping disability claims.

The Social Security Disability program is in financial crisis, and it has been estimated that the trust fund that supports the program will run dry by 2016. In light of this, some SSD judges are being scrutinized for high rates of approvals in appeals cases. If some judges are green-lighting nearly 100 percent of their appeals claims, why do we hear of so many people with disabilities who receive denial after denial?

Unemployment rate for disabled Americans nearly twice as high

The Labor Department has released some interesting data about disabled people in the U.S. and the employment rate. Just one in six Americans with disabilities had a job in 2013, a slight reduction from the previous year.

Some of this low employment rate was likely due to the troubled economy, which keeps many Americans in general unemployed or underemployed. However, many disabled people don’t have a job because their condition keeps them from having full-time employment. Perhaps they sustained injuries in an accident, or an illness or genetic condition has worsened to the point that work has become impossible.

ERs seeing far more brain injury patients than years ago

A brain injury can have a profound impact on the victim’s cognitive and physical abilities. Or a series of smaller blows can add up to debilitating conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Whether the damage comes right away or builds up gradually, a brain injury may make it impossible to continue working. Without the ability to earn an income, many people with a brain injury have turned to Social Security Disability Insurance for help.

There has been a great deal of discussion of brain trauma in the news media the past few years. Much of that focuses on sports injuries and traumatic brain injuries (or TBIs) suffered by soldiers in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. But a head injury can happen to anyone, for instance in a car accident or a simple slip and fall.

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